Saturday (June 14, 2014) is the 239th Army Birthday (and it’s also Flag Day.) Here are some facts about the United States Army that you may or may not know already.
- Almost 70% of all Medals of Honor have been awarded to soldiers in the U.S. Army. Figures from August 2013 show that 2,403 Medals of Honor had been awarded to soldiers while 3,468 had been awarded to service members in all branches combined. 1198 of the Army Medal of Honor recipients were awarded the medal for actions during the Civil War.
- The youngest officer to become a General in the Army was only 20 years old. Galusha Pennypacker, of Pennsylvania, enlisted in the Army at the age of 16 in 1861. He received a brevet promotion in January 1865 to Brigadier General after the Battle of Fort Fisher. He received a full promotion to that rank a month later and also received the Medal of Honor for those actions. After the war, he continued in the regular Army as a Colonel. George Armstrong Custer was also one of the youngest officers promoted to general during the Civil War. He was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General only three days before the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
- Henry “Hap” Arnold was the only person to hold the rank of five-star general in two branches of the military. Arnold became a five-star general (General of the Army) and was only behind Marshall, MacArthur, and Eisenhower in seniority at that rank. He retired in 1946 and a law passed by Congress in 1949 made his last rank General of the Air Force – since the Air Force didn’t exist as a separate branch until 1947.
- The oldest active duty regiment in the Army is the Old Guard. The Old Guard has been designated as the 3rd Infantry Regiment since 1815. Before that, it was organized as the First American Regiment in 1784. There have been five Medal of Honor recipients who served in the 3rd Infantry Regiment – the last was during Vietnam. In addition to the ceremonial units at Fort Myer adjacent to Arlington Cemetery, 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Regiment is at Fort Lewis, Washington. That battalion is equipped with Stryker armored fighting vehicles (wheeled) and is part of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division. UPDATE: One highly-knowledgeable reader points out that the “oldest continuously-serving unit in the Regular Army is D Battery, 1st Bn, 5th Field Artillery” that was formed as Alexander Hamilton’s Battery during the Revolution.
- The earliest actions that an African-American soldier received the Medal of Honor for resulted in William H. Carney receiving the MOH. While he actually received the Medal in 1900, the actions he earned it for took place on July 18, 1863 at Battery Wagner on Morris Island in South Carolina. Carney served in the 54th Massachusetts, the unit immortalized in the movie Glory.
- The Lewis and Clark Expedition was an Army operation. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark could choose any member of the Regular Army or the Militia to be a member of their Corps of Discovery. The expedition was funded by the War Department and the Army Quartermaster procured supplies for it. The soldiers were split into squads and were in uniform for the whole expedition.
- The Army Astronaut Badge is said to be the rarest badge issued by the U.S. Army. As of 2008, around 15 soldiers had earned it. Most of them have been graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.